By Amy Pressman, Special to SNH
Sandy Hagan is Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven’s (JFS’s) indispensable Food Pantry and Nutritional Health Center Director as well as Coordinator of Agency Operations for JFS.
In her nearly 20 years at JFS and 15 years as head of the pantry, Sandy has helped countless families and individuals feel more food secure. In addition to the food clients receive, they also walk out of the pantry with smiles, thanks to her.
Under Sandy’s direction, the food pantry is operated entirely by volunteers, including Bill Gosselin. What sets JFS’s Food Pantry apart is its “personal touch,” Gosselin said. “All of the clients get what they need,” he said. “The pantry is well-run, friendly and cheerful. Sandy sets the tone and makes everything so kind, thoughtful and generous.”
Another volunteer, Betsy Flaherty agreed. “Sandy is really kind, has a big heart and really cares about these people and they feel that,” she added.
The JFS Food Pantry isn’t a one size fits all model. Clients take a basket or shopping cart to select exactly what they need based on their living situations, dietary concerns and other factors. “Sandy takes the time to learn about each client and has volunteers set aside special food items for them,” Flaherty said.
Mrs. O., a food pantry client, agreed. “Sandy is the best person. She tries to help everybody she can.”
Not only does Sandy supervise, coordinate and schedule her staff of 11 volunteers, she also orders all of the food and supplies and gathers statistics and performs analyses for the state. She also helps clients take advantage of JFS’s many social services programs. Within the JFS offices, as Coordinator of Agency Operations, Sandy oversees agency policies, procedures and IT services.
“Sandy is an incredibly effective and compassionate leader of our food pantry and all of our food assistance efforts,” said Jonathan Garfinkle, JFS’s Executive Director and CEO.
“She has established an environment of inclusivity and respect in which clients are treated with dignity, courtesy, honor, and humor,” Garfinkle said. “Sandy makes the experience of acquiring food akin to shopping in a market, but with a unique and special human touch. The Food Pantry and Nutritional Health Center has become a community – more than just a place to pick up food.”
As much as she enjoys seeing her clients, her favorite thing to hear a client say is “I’ve got a job now or my situation has changed and I’m okay now. This is my last appointment.” Sandy also loves her incredible group of volunteers. “The pantry would not exist without them.”
Each month, the food pantry has “Rabbinic Wednesdays” with Rabbi Hesch Sommer, Rabbi Steve Steinberg, and a rotating corps of guest rabbis assisting clients.
Mara Ginsberg, JFS’s Volunteer Coordinator, provides additional support with volunteers from the Woodbridge branch of the Kennedy Center, the Foundation School in Milford and CCCD Milford – Wheelers Farm.
Food pantry clients schedule a visit to shop for groceries at the Food Pantry once a month. In addition to these scheduled clients, the food pantry also takes in a great number of emergency calls for food. Currently, more than 250 families utilize the JFS Food Pantry on a regular basis. For more information on ways you can help or to donate food, contact Sandy at (203) 389-5599, x121.
The food pantry is funded in part by grants from the United Way of Greater New Haven, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, CHEFA, the ‘B’ Foundation, and the NewAlliance Foundation. It also receives private donations.
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